The term “hard to get” needs no explanation. We all know what it means because each one of us has probably experienced it firsthand. Men and women who play hard to get may engage in any of the following behaviors: they express interest but never commit to an actual date; they break plans at the last minute; they act like they are sooo into you but never ask to make the relationship official; or they spend time with you but always have an excuse when it comes to the chance to have some private (read: intimate) couple time.
If you are faced with this annoying behavior, you need to take action and deal with it. You know what most people do when someone plays hard to get with them? They don’t do anything. They are passive and don’t want to assert what they want for fear that the person they’re dating would lose interest and walk away. Being passive, overly dependent, or giving the other person all the control in how the relationship progresses are all approaches you should avoid. You can’t have respect for yourself when someone you are with isn’t giving you the respect you need. When someone strings you along, you will lower your self-esteem and end up feeling sad, dejected or even pathetic if you don’t do what I am suggesting: take action.
Be clear and direct about the pattern you have identified.
A man is playing hard to get with you? Talk to him about it. A woman is stringing you along and not following through on actual plans? Talk to her. Let me give you some examples of how you can address this issue. The approach I recommend may seem painfully obvious – to call out the behavior – but most men and women will be afraid to be so direct for fear that they will upset the other person. Truth: If a man you are dating is playing hard to get, he might not like the fact you are calling him on his behavior because he will feel exposed. In addition, he will not be able to get away with immature or avoidant behavior going forward as long as you directly deal with issues that come up. On the other hand, some individuals who play hard to get will respect you more because you took action and stood up for what you want and are looking for in a relationship.
Examples of how to broach the topic:
“I have to talk to you about something that has been bothering me. I’m sure it’s nothing, so we can deal with it for a minute and then move on. But overall, I feel like I really like you, and it seems like you like me, too. What confuses me is that sometimes it seems like you are playing hard to get, or that you are avoiding making plans or taking things to the next level. Can we talk for a minute about what kind of relationship you want with me? Can we talk about what expectations each of us should have in dating? I bring this up not to make anything awkward, but because I like you. At the same time, I value my time and energy and I want to make sure that we are both really in it if we are going to keep seeing each other.”
Big picture: You need to ask yourself the most basic question.
If you want a relationship, it means that you have needs that you believe a long-term relationship would help fulfill. (And this is a correct assumption, as long as it’s a good relationship.) This week, I was talking to a male friend who talked about a woman he has been on-and-off with for the past year or so. Over time, he has grown increasingly frustrated because the relationship isn’t going anywhere. He would like to take it to the next level, but she always finds some way to brush him off or postpone plans to get together. My friend talked about how he needs to move on because he always ends up feeling bad after talking to or seeing her. When they get together, she seems half-interested or tired, and she avoids any physical intimacy. I told him this: “She probably doesn’t want to close the door completely with you because she likes the attention you give her and she likes feeling wanted.” Sadly, my male friend likes to feel wanted, too, but he just doesn’t ever get that satisfied feeling. Most importantly, I told him not to overthink the situation because it all boils down to one simple truth: she isn’t meeting his needs. He has tried in vain for months to steer their relationship into an actual committed partnership, but she has resisted that. “It’s not meeting your needs, so move on,” I told him. My friend went on to talk about how he doesn’t like who he is in this “relationship,” and again, I told him, “She’s just not meeting your needs, so don’t waste time by overthinking it.”
Stop fantasizing and accept the reality of today.
Like countless other men and women looking for a partner, my friend hung in there for months with the hope that the woman he liked would one day be ready for something more serious. This has been his mistake. There are plenty of men and women out there who are ready for a real relationship today. Don’t sell yourself short by waiting on something that may never happen. For example, if you were waiting for a bus that never came after two or three hours, would you really keep standing there, hoping it would show up soon?
About the Author:
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.